Bulgaria’s Supreme Administrative Court has ruled that comments made on national television by actor and director Andrey Slabakov saying homosexuals were more dangerous than smoking are unlawful harassment.
During a television interview in 2011, Slabakov claimed that ‘gays are more dangerous than tobacco smoking because they spread AIDS on a mass scale.’
Slabakov said this posed a threat to the wider community because ‘some of them are bisexual’ and thus had the potential to spread the disease to heterosexuals as well.
LGBT activists Radoslav Stoyanov and Dobromir Dobrev filed a complaint with Bulgaria’s Commission for Protection against Discrimination, but the commission initially dismissed the complaint, saying it could not find any breach in the country’s Protection against Discrimination Act. In Slabakov’s comments.
The activists appealed the commission’s decision in a district administrative court which found in their favor – however the commission then appealed that ruling to the Supreme Administrative Court.
In its decision the Supreme Court found that Andrey Slabakov was a well known public figure in Bulgaria and thus an influential opinion maker. The fact that the interview had been aired during prime time on national television was also been taken into consideration.
The court also found that there is no absolute freedom of speech in the Bulgarian Constitution, and that slander that violates the dignity of a person and creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment on the ground of sexual orientation is not considered protected speech under Bulgarian or EU law.
The decision is final and obliges the national equality body to impose administrative measures or administrative penal provisions on Slabakov. The Commission for Protection against Discrimination is expected to reach a decision.
Bulgaria joined the EU in 2007 and its Protection against Discrimination Act transposes EU directives on protecting minority groups.